Recently, I had the opportunity of coordinating media interviews for Shahrukh Khan at the launch of Kidzania in Delhi NCR. Unlike most of my colleagues and media people, I had not gone there starry eyed, as I have never been a fan of the man (yes, bade bade shehron mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain)! However, I must admit, that I experienced a true fan girl moment all because I could not but help marvel at his exceptional communication skills. Yes, you may argue that he is a star and that it would come naturally to him; but there are enough examples of Bollywood or even Hollywood stars that lack this skill. There is a world of difference between just talking to the media and actually getting across everything you want to say. What was remarkable about Shahrukh Khan was that, he was so on message as a spokesperson for Kidzania, inspite of the obvious questions on his films and family, he was able to give the right sound bites to firmly establish the USP of Kidzania. He never failed to bring the conversation back to the event at hand, firmly and politely.
Shahrukh Khan at the Kidzania launch
This interaction led me to think on the importance of brands choosing the right spokesperson. Even though business owners know and understand all aspects of their company, this is not enough to be able to talk to the media effectively. How you say something is just as important as what you are saying. Ultimately, a good spokesperson is able to clearly and concisely get across the company's key messages without sounding forced or artificial.
A spokesperson is a brand ambassador, an extension of the business, which is why choosing the right person can seem like a daunting task. Here are the top 5 characteristics the most effective spokesperson should possess.
1. Impeccable Delivery
Let’s face it, public speaking is a lot harder than we all thought it would be; in comparison, often making a trip to the dentist seems a better option! Effective spokespeople are articulate and understand timing, inflection, and the power of a well-timed pause.
An effective spokesperson doesn’t have to be a Shahrukh Khan, but some of the best spokespeople have that special intangible quality that makes them hard to resist. Part of their charisma is understanding how to express themselves in a compelling way or when to lay on the charm.
Great spokespeople truly believe in their message, which shines through in their delivery. Ideas with passion do have a winning proposition. Look no further than Shahrukh Khan (I did admit, I am a fan girl now) and also Amitabh Bachchan.
4. High Credibility
In some way, a good spokesperson has gained the trust of the public, making them a credible source. Whether they’re a scholar, an elected official, a professional, or a walking testament to the benefits of a particular product, people respond to figures who are an authority. Authority and credibility are reasons why celebrities have become such effective spokespeople. As established credible sources, we trust their opinion and insight.
5. Quick Thinking
An ideal spokesperson should be able to think on their toes, even when the camera stops rolling. They should be able to tactfully handle unscripted questions even in an elevator or the airport waiting lounge, and firmly understand that their public actions will reflect the business image.
One additional consideration that is definitely not to be overlooked when seeking a strong spokesperson is the individual’s availability. This one may seem obvious, but in reality, ensuring that a potential representative for the brand has the time is extremely important. Or else, that exclusive interview will be hijacked into oblivion with the elusive spokesperson!
Arpana Kumar Ahuja is the chief growth officer of PR Pundit. Prior to consulting with PR Pundit since 2002, Arpana was director, corporate communications with ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’. She also serves on the board of ‘Ideosync Media’ and is an advisor to ‘Start Up!’